Mozilla Firefox for Android

Mozilla Firefox for Android

Download Editors' Rating:
4.5
Outstanding
Average User Rating:
2.2
out of 14 votes

Quick Specs

  • Version:
    4.0
  • Total Downloads:
    192,348
  • Date Added:
    Mar. 29, 2011
  • Price:
    Free
  • File Size:
    Not available
  • Downloads Last Week:
    170
  • Platform:
    Android
  • Product ranking:
    #6 in Web Browsers

Editors' Note: The "Download Now" link directs you to the product page. You can download the application from the Android Market on your Android device.

Editors' Review

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The bottom line: Firefox 4 Mobile brings both familiarity and power to the Android browser scene, but it's Firefox's killer Sync that will drive attention to Mozilla's new mobile browser.

Review:
Editors' note: Portions of this review are based on CNET's review for Firefox 4 for desktops.

Mozilla's first foray into the Android Market ports much of the desktop Firefox experience to your mobile device. The look and feel of the desktop browser have been remarkably replicated, and the browser itself doesn't feel alien compared with other Android browsers.

If you have a Maemo phone, you can download Firefox 4 Mobile for Maemo devices. Except for the performance benchmarks detailed below, it's safe to presume that the Android and Maemo behaviors are close enough to use this review as a guide to the Maemo version.

Installation
Installing Firefox 4 Mobile is no different than any other Android app, except that the installer is significantly larger than most Android apps. The basic Firefox installer takes up about 13MB on your phone, so be sure that you have enough room to store it. Alternatively, you can transfer it to your SD card before running it for the first time.

Once running, Firefox for Android will require about 17MB total. The extra 4MB comes from browsing and synchronization data. Firefox's APK is so large, especially when compared with the default Android browser, which takes up less than 1MB of space, because Firefox includes its own rendering engine. Most other third-party browsers on Android still use the default browsers' WebKit engine.

Note that Firefox for Android works best on more-recent devices. Two notable phones that it does not work on are the first Motorola Droid and the Droid Eris. Mozilla says that they're basically too underpowered to support the browser. The company has a list of supported devices and other requirements.

Interface
Firefox 4 Mobile's interface starts you off differently than its desktop counterpart, with a new Firefox Start page. It's a landing page that provides buttons to several key browser functions. You can reload your tabs from your previous session, peruse and load tabs from other computers, and tweak add-ons. For example, if you install the Personas add-on for skinning the browser, a button will appear on Firefox Start to quickly get you to the Personas management page.

Above Firefox Start lives the location bar. Favicons are larger in Firefox than in the default browser, which makes it easier to check at a glance which site you're on. Tap the favicon to see site security information, as well as tools to save the page as a PDF, search within the page, tweak character encoding, and see relevant add-ons. AdBlock Plus will appear here, for example.

As in the desktop version, you can search directly from the URL bar. Tap it and you'll jump to a window with four tabs that Mozilla calls the Awesome Screen. The first tab is All Pages, which shows all the sites you've visited. The next tab is Bookmarks, and if you've enabled Sync, your desktop bookmarks will appear in a separate folder here. The third tab is your History, and the fourth is Desktop for showing tabs from your Firefox desktop--again, this is dependent on using Firefox Sync.

Drag the site you're on to the right to see tab management, with each tab represented by a thumbnail. Dragging your finger across the screen to the left shows you the star for quickly bookmarking a site, forward and backward navigation buttons, and an Options button for accessing Firefox's Preferences, Add-ons, and Downloads window.

Hitting the hardware Settings button gives you four more options via tabs: Site options, which is the same as tapping a site's favicon; and Preferences, for customizing Firefox. The next two choices are add-ons for managing your extensions, followed by a downloads manager.

The interface design is intuitive and ought to present a very gentle learning curve. It's probably helpful for new Android users to remember that for bookmark and history-related searches, tap the location bar at the top of the browser. For tweaks to Firefox itself, tap the hardware settings button and your options will appear at the bottom. Most importantly, transitions between screens in Firefox 4 Mobile were smooth and suffered no lags.

Features and support
Firefox 4 Mobile's features are robust and competitive, bringing user favorites like Firefox's add-on community to Android along with important usability features like the aforementioned Firefox Sync, clever search engine switching, and blazing browsing times with its own rendering engine.

The most important new feature in Firefox 4 Mobile is Firefox Sync. As with many recent Firefox features, it started off as a rough add-on for the desktop, and often deleted data. If you were scared off by its early bad behavior, you'll be glad to know that Mozilla has worked out the kinks: Sync now smoothly syncs your Bookmarks, Passwords, Preferences, History, and Tabs to both multiple desktops and multiple Android devices.

Unfortunately, Firefox Sync does not support syncing add-ons, even when there are versions for both desktop and Android such as AdBlock Plus. Hopefully this will come in future versions, or at least Sync will be improved to include an advanced users' panel for those who want more customization in their synchronizations.

That all being said, Firefox Sync is a powerful feature that works well, and it keeps your desktop data cleanly separated from your mobile browsing in folders and options labeled "desktop," yet that separation doesn't impair your ability to access them. This is a top-notch synchronization implementation.

To use it, go to Preferences and make sure that Enable Sync is checked off. Then tap the Connect button, and enter in the code that appears in your desktop version of Firefox. If you're not near your desktop, tap the link that reads, "I'm not near my computer" and follow those instructions.

Within Firefox Sync, there are two important security points. One is that Firefox encrypts your data before sending it over an encrypted connection to its servers, where it remains encrypted. Mozilla says that the company would not be able to access it even if somebody there wanted to. The second is that you have the option of setting up your own personal sync server. In an age when private data stored by corporations gets hacked and stolen with shocking regularity, setting up a personal sync server is one way to ensure that you bear the responsibility for your own data.

Another big feature in Firefox 4 Mobile is support for add-ons. There's a small collection of these so far, only around 150 at the time this review was written. Of those, however, there are many which are among the most popular of Firefox's desktop add-ons including AdBlock Plus, NoScript, Personas, and Readability. There are numerous search engine add-ons, which makes it easier to search specific sites from your device. These include IMDB, Twitter, YouTube, and Bing.

A cool search engine feature that Mozilla has built into Firefox mobile is that when you start typing in the location bar, Firefox will offer your search engines with the term you just typed in as automatic results. So, if you type "cheese," along with your previously visited "cheese.com," you'll get "Google--search for cheese" as a one-tap alternative. Another cool search tweak is that because of the Awesome Screen's All Pages default tab, which functions as a dumping ground for all URLs you have visited and have bookmarked, it can search your history quickly. That, too, will cut down on typing and tapping. These are key time-saving features on a mobile device, especially those with smaller screens.

As mentioned, Firefox 4 Mobile supports tabbed browsing and one-tap bookmarking using the bookmark star, both familiar and effective tools ported over from the desktop version. Pinch to zoom and double-tap are supported for zooming in, and it's no accident that Firefox offers a reformat text on zoom option in the preferences. You can also toggle images, JavaScript, password saving, and cookies, for increased security and faster downloading.

Other features that Mozilla has ported to the mobile version include a lot of what powers Firefox under the hood. There's broad HTML5 support; Electrolysis for keeping processes separate and increasing the stability of the browser; the desktop's JaegerMonkey JavaScript rendering engine, which recently helped earn the desktop version an Editors' Choice Award from CNET; and multiprocess running on phones with more than one core. There's also an offline mode for precaching sites.

However, Firefox 4 Mobile does not support Flash, even when you've installed the separate Flash app from Adobe. It's not clear at the time of writing whether Mozilla plans to include support in a future update, either. This sets it behind many of its competitors which do support Flash, including the default browser, Opera Mobile, and DolphinHD.

Performance
There's no doubt that Firefox mobile renders Web sites faster than the default browser. It also feels more cohesive, as the discrete elements of pages appear quicker.

Much of this has to do with the new JaegerMonkey engine getting ported to the mobile version. We'll update this section with CNET's performance benchmarks as they become available, although initial results show Firefox 4 testing competitively against other browsers.

Initially, we thought that Firefox for Android suffered from some serious lag when starting up. It turns out that this was related to upgrading from the beta test version to the one that's currently available to the public. If you're experiencing slowness when starting the browser and you were a Firefox beta tester, it's worth your while to uninstall it and then download it again.

Conclusion
Definitely a worthy heir to the Firefox name, Firefox 4 Mobile is likely to become many desktop Firefox users' default browser simply by virtue of Firefox Sync. The feature is simply impressively useful, and will become even more so if users begin adopting Android tablets like they've taken to Android phones.

However, the lack of Flash support is a definite problem, as is the horrifically slow lag when loading the browser. It's enough to keep the browser from getting top marks, as much as we really like just about everything else about using Firefox on an Android.

 
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Publisher's Description

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User Reviews
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Results 1–3 of 3

3 stars

"Test test t"

May 03, 2011  |  By misteruat

 |  Version: Mozilla Firefox for Android 4.0

Pros

Test est est

Cons

est ttest testt

Reply to this review

Was this review helpful? (0) (5)

1 stars

"Tried it hated it droid x firefox version mid April '11"

April 22, 2011  |  By thelayton

 |  Version: Mozilla Firefox for Android 4.0

Pros

Ran great for about 30 seconds...

Cons

Dogged the phone till it crashed. Pulled battery to reboot. This was the first time I've had to do a batt pull since I bought the fone in Jan '11.

Summary

Total time of use... about 3 minutes. Maybe I'll try it again a few versions from now.

Reply to this review

Was this review helpful? (1) (3)

2 stars

"Not ready for prime time"

March 29, 2011  |  By kitanderson

 |  Version: Mozilla Firefox for Android 4.0

Pros

It looks good.

Cons

Java on the NOAA forecast site choked it. Checkerboard again.
Sync didn't work at all.
Where are tabs?

Summary

Dolphin HD is still king. And I am a Firefox fan.

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Was this review helpful? (0) (0)

Results 1–3 of 3

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Full Specifications

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What's new in version 4.0

Add-ons

  • There are now over 150 add-ons for Firefox for mobile, and counting. Dozens of add-ons are already compatible with our latest browser version. Thanks to our awesome community, the number of exciting compatible add-ons increase constantly. Check out the winners of our Mobile Add-on Cup and many other amazing extensions for your mobile browser.

Performance and Memory Usage

  • We improved startup speed even more (compared to previous Beta versions). This was a top user request.
  • Improved page load speed
  • In Beta 5 we introduce the feature to move Firefox to the SD card along with all its profile data (requires Android 2.2 or higher). This reduces memory usage on your mobile device to a minimum and leaves more space for other apps.
  • Scrolling and page rendering are significantly faster and much smoother, showing far less checkerboarding. Smarter page rendering and page loading algorithms led to this very visible improvement.
  • JavaScript is faster - our benchmarks show additional performance improvement compared to previous Beta releases.
  • Reducing memory and optimizing CPU usage are ongoing themes. We have been working on improvements in this area to make the browser more responsive and stable. Overall responsiveness has improved. With this version, we have implemented additional optimizations that speed up the browser and make it much more responsive, especially when using Firefox Sync. You will see continuous improvement in our future releases
  • User Interface

  • Filling out forms is now easier than ever with our improved Form Assistant: tapping into form fields zooms you in swiftly and shows a list of suggested values to make navigation easy and to minimize typing. This is particularly useful when using Firefox Sync, which helps synchronize form data like user names and passwords (and also bookmarks, browsing history) across your connected devices, so you never have to type a user / password or other form fill data twice. The new controls make it very easy to fill in forms in web pages.
  • It is now easier to close the sidebars without accidentally reopening them.
  • We now support copy and paste for all form fields on web pages.
  • We fixed miscellaneous bugs, introduced usability improvements, and optimized the user experience with this release. Firefox 4 for mobile Release Candidate is also more stable than previous versions. See "Known Issues" below for details on fixed bugs
  • Japanese is now included in the default set of languages for the Firefox user interface.
  • For developers

    • NOW is the time to build new awesome add-on or to make all your mobile add-ons compatible with our Release Candidate. Our interfaces are all stable, we don't expect any changes for our final release that would impace add-ons. Go! Find all the tools and resources you need on our Developer Hub
    • Firefox 4 adds support for IPv6 on Android.
  • The "overflow: scroll" and "overflow: auto" CSS properties are now supported.
  • In Beta 4 we introduced restartless add-ons
  • Also in Beta 4 we started providing support for HTML5 online/offline events
  • General
    Publisher Mozilla
    Publisher web site http://www.mozilla.org/
    Release Date March 29, 2011
    Date Added March 29, 2011
    Version 4.0
    Category
    Category Browsers
    Subcategory Web Browsers
    Operating Systems
    Operating Systems Android
    Additional Requirements Android 2.0
    Download Information
    File Size Not Available
    File Name details
    Popularity
    Total Downloads 192,348
    Downloads Last Week 170
    Pricing
    License Model Free
    Limitations Not available
    Price Free

    Previous Versions:

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